Going back to Basics
In order for the Legion and every Legionary to realise our full potential we have to habitually go back to the basics. There is no other way for the Legion to be renewed and flourish. If we don’t commit ourselves again and again to the basics, there is a real danger or indeed the probability that we will implode and take deviant paths and fail Mary and the Church. But what are the basics? The basics are to be found in the Handbook but there are surely some parts of the Handbook, which are more important than others although every part is important and we neglect them at our peril. I would suggest that the indispensable core of the Legion Handbook is the Legion Promise and the Standing Instruction to be read out at the first meeting of a praesidium every month. If these two imperatives of the Legion are frequently pondered and joyfully lived, then the Legion will inevitably become a school of holiness and of authentic apostolate.
One can get an extended and helpful commentary on the Legion Promise in the book ‘The Theology of the Apostolate’ by Cardinal Suenens. That book has earned a place in every Legion library. Let me just offer a few reflections and suggestions. The Promise is a most intimate and radical conversation with the Holy Spirit and marks the beginning of a whole new way of life that changes us forever. We promise and earnestly ask that the Holy Spirit will be at the very center of our lives. We say:
‘Most Holy Spirit, desiring to be enrolled this day as a Legionary of Mary,
Yet knowing that of myself I cannot render worthy service,
Do ask of you to come upon me and fill me with yourself,
So that my poor acts may be sustained by your power and become an instrument of your mighty purposes.’
So the first thing every Legionary does is to ask the Holy Spirit to come upon him. He asks to be totally immersed in the Holy Spirit. Come O Holy Spirit fill the heart of your faithful. This prayer needs to be prayed not only at the beginning of every Legion meeting but at the beginning of every Legion prayer of activity. Would it not be so right and fitting that both inside and outside the Legion that the Legion would be known as a place where the Holy Spirit is truly recognized, loved and honoured. Legionaries are people who are totally committed to the Holy Spirit and live and rejoice in Him. The Holy Spirit must have absolute primacy in the Legion.
But how do we establish this relationship with the Holy Spirit in the Legion? The next paragraph of the Promise gives us the answer.
‘But I know that you, who has come to regenerate the world in Jesus Christ, has not will to do so except through Mary.
That without her we cannot know or love you;
That it is by her, and to whom she pleases, when she pleases, and in the quantity and manner she pleases,
That all your gifts and virtues and graces are administered;
And I realize that the secret of a perfect legionary service consists in a complete union with her who is so completely united to you.’
We need to go over this passage very slowly and reflectively because as the Promise states: here you have the secret of the Legion. What precisely is the secret of the Legion? Well, first the legionary is convinced that without Mary we cannot know and love the Holy Spirit. Secondly, the secret ‘consists in a complete union with her who is so completely united with you’. The first part of the secret is a complete union with Mary. We need to underline the words ‘complete union with Mary’. It is not only union at certain times and places and certainly not half hearted union but complete and utter union with Mary in everything and everywhere, with our very souls and with nothing held back. It is this complete union with Mary that infallibly leads us to complete immersion in the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit together with Mary that brings Jesus into the world. It is at the heart of our Catholic Creed: ‘El incarnates est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine’ which means that God took flesh from the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is eternally true and the living of that truth is what it means to be a Legionary. The complete union of the Holy Spirit, Mary and the Legionary is the doctrinal basis and specific charism or vocation of the Legion. We bring Jesus into the world by uniting ourselves completely with Mary and the Holy Spirit. And that is evangelisation.
When the doctrinal foundation of the Legion is obscured the Legion becomes weakened and vulnerable. We need to keep hammering at our call to complete union with Mary in order to be completely open to the Holy Spirit. Then the Legion becomes a school of holiness and the apostolate because that is how Jesus comes into our own lives and the life of the world. We will continue our return to the basics in our next allocutio with the help of the Holy Spirit and Mary.